After first leaking selected bits and pieces from a mental health audit to the Albuquerque Journal, and then leaking other cherry-picked selections to an Albuquerque TV station, the state Human Services Department gave us yet another glimpse Tuesday during a legislative meeting in Las Cruces.
Of course, all of the information selected to be leaked backs up the state’s contention that fraud uncovered by the audit was so rampant that state administrators had no choice but to freeze Medicaid funding.
Meanwhile, the same state officials leaking information to bolster their case have steadfastly refused to release the audit in its entirety so that we can see all the information presented to the state ahead of its decision to drive local mental-health care providers out of business and replace them with an out-of-state substitute from Arizona.
Is there anybody at this point who still believes the state’s handling of this issue has been fair and transparent?
Last month, the Sun-News joined with media partner New Mexico In Depth to file a lawsuit seeking release of the audit.
The legal action was taken after requests filed through the state’s open records law were denied.
Rather than be open and transparent, Human Services Department officials are instead using taxpayer money in a court case to prevent taxpayers from being able to see the audit that they have paid for.
The excuse given is that releasing the audit would hamper an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the Attorney General’s Office.
If any of the clinic CEOs under investigation are, in fact, guilty of theft or fraud of Medicaid funds, we want to see them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
But, if the law enforcement effort really is dependent on absolute secrecy of the audit, then Human Services Department officials need to stop leaking it.
They can’t have it both ways.
The state has chosen to upend its entire mental-healthcare system.
While efforts were taken to make the transition as seamless as could be done, it is impossible to undertake such a quick forced transition without disruptions to service.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, it was revealed that Human Services Department officials met with Arizona providers before the audit had even been completed.
Why would they take steps to line up replacements before knowing if replacements would be needed?
Those who rely on mental-health services, and those of us who pay for those services through our tax dollars, deserve to know if the steps taken by the state were a prudent response to an ongoing crisis, or an over-reaction.
The only way we can know which is the case, is to pour through the audit and test each of its findings.
We have trusted state officials for long enough on this. It’s time to verify.
The Sun-News is an NMID media partner and co-plaintiff in the lawsuit seeking release of the audit.